Chapter 1: Embarking on Adventure
It was a night just like any other. As the silver moon rose in the sky, illuminating the chain of islands that rested below it, their denizens switched gears and settled down for the evening, taking up residence instead in their houses and the tavern rather than the marketplace. The streets of Sailor's Island were unusually deserted on this particular night; the bustling of activity at the bar suggesting that there was either a discount or a celebration going on to the casual bystander. In the world of Arcadia, news traveled as fast as the winds could take them. It was therefore unsurprising that sailors and pirates of all factions were joyously cheering together at Valua's first failed attempt at asserting their dominance over the world. This is referring to, of course, the successful escape of the Blue Rogues.
Not that it mattered in the slightest to the two shadows that slinked carefully around the walls and across the creaking bridge toward their destination. Whether the Blue Rogues lived or died were of no concern to them; if anything they were just grateful for the diversion this latest event provided them.
"Weapons or items?" A soft feminine voice whispered, pausing as they came to a stop in the short alley between the ship parts and items stores. There was a thoughtful moment of silence before her companion whipped out a gun and gave her a cheeky grin.
"Both, of course." Her friend's outline shivered in anticipation at what they were about to do. This never got old.
"I'll retrieve the items, then. I'll meet you back on the Thalia after." She said nothing more as she slowly shuffled to the store's front door, picking the lock until a satisfying click later and the door swung open. She quietly entered and was soon engulfed in darkness. The other thief watched her partner curiously for a moment before she spun around and headed to the weapon's store. There was work to be done.
The night would go on without a single disruption. As the drunken sailors blearily stumbled out onto the cobblestone to head back to their respective vessels, only one would notice the two girls that slyly moved around them to board their own ship. He would think nothing of it, and when the morning came, he would have forgotten entirely.
"Vyse… VYSE, wake up already!" Her tone was of apparent disapproval as he jumped into the waking world with a start, rubbing his eyes to clear his vision as a fiery red-head impatiently tapped her foot by his bedside. "It's about time; I've been trying to wake you up for the last ten minutes!"
"Yeah right…" He grumbled, yawning before giving each of his arms and legs a prolonged and satisfying stretch. They were stiff from having slept so comfortably the past night. Oh well, he would force the mobility out of them if he had to. "Your voice is too loud for anyone to possibly sleep through, Aika."
"Vyse!" Aika exclaimed, appearing offended as she crossed her arms and huffed. Vyse rolled his eyes and brushed some brown strands of hair from his face as Aika's façade slowly crumbled; leaving her to smile as she playfully punched him in the shoulder. It was impossible for the duo to have a spat between them; they were much too close for that. He adjusted his eye patch so that it rested securely around his head before he finally pushed himself from his bed to join the world around him. Had he known how long it would be until he could sleep in this room again, he probably would have lingered on it for a moment longer. He followed his yellow clad friend down the wooden ladder as she excitedly bumbled about the adventure ahead of them. That's right! They were going to help Fina retrieve the moon crystals.
Vyse caught sight of the signature white and gold patterned outfit from the corner of his eye immediately upon entering the downstairs. Surrounded by the wooden structure of their house and the dull furniture that acted as its interior, the Silvite truly stood out with her foreign attire.
"Good morning, Vyse. I trust you slept well?" Fina asked politely, though her voice betrayed a trace of amusement from what had transpired upstairs. Anyone could have heard Aika's elevated voice when she had attempted to wake Vyse up; some of the children in the clearing had even joined in on the waking call, though Vyse couldn't have heard it due to Aika's proximity. The red head enjoyed being loud and obnoxious when she felt like it; it eased away any tension that might have otherwise hovered over their heads. It would be a trademark that would later lift their spirits in their darkest hours… It truly is amazing how one characteristic can develop into something much, much more.
"I did; thank you. All set to go?" Vyse was ready to start exploring this world he lived in. Though he had heard many stories from his father about the distant civilizations, Vyse never before had the opportunity to visit them until now. He couldn't wait to pilot the Little Jack and expand his horizons. There were a few individuals that could wait, however, and they announced their presence by feigning the clearing of their throats. Vyse turned to face his parents, who stood together behind the kitchen counter.
"I understand that you are anxious to begin your adventure, Vyse, but you need to be a bit more thoughtful than that." Dyne scolded gently, wrapping an arm around his wife as he spoke. Her face was placid as she tried very hard not to crack with emotion. Pride and worry for her son were heavy on her mind, it appeared. Vyse felt the tension emanating from her look, so he did what he thought would be the most comforting gesture – he manoeuvred around the counter and gave her one of his strongest hugs. His embrace was tight and reassuring, truly a soft moment for the other occupants of the room.
"Stay smart, and be safe, Vyse… Don't do anything reckless." Her voice cracked as she let him go, giving him a teary-eyed smile. "I know that you won't, sweetie… It's just a mother's instinct."
"I expect you to follow the Blue Rogue code regardless of where you are, Vyse. Think like a rogue, and the paths will be illuminated for you." Dyne continued, getting his teenaged boy's attention. "Believe in your companions."
"Are you just going to stand there all day?" A gruff voice growled as his large frame entered the doorway, scanning his new young crewmembers faces as they turned their gazes to him. "We'll be lucky enough to reach Sailor's Island by dusk at this rate." His hardened face frowned, though it lifted slightly as he stared down the other two adults in the room. "I mean no disrespect, of course."
"I understand, Captain Drachma." The leader of the Blue Rogues nodded, knowing full well how the older gentleman must be feeling right now. After all, Dyne had experienced it a few times himself, though in a different context. "Vyse, Aika, I expect you both to be on your best behaviour. Represent us well. Fina, I wish you the best of luck in completing your objectives." In that moment a look of disdain flashed across his face – one that made it known that he wasn't happy about the Silvite making off with two of his favourite pirates, not to mention them being his son and unofficially adopted daughter. It was quick, and only the older sailor of fifty-five years caught it. The two were a lot more alike than the captain of the Little Jack realized. If anything were to happen to Vyse or Aika, Drachma had no doubt that Dyne would swear vengeance on whoever bested them… just as he had swore regarding the arc whale Rhaknam all that time ago.
"Thank you." The Silvite gave a short bow of appreciation, accompanied by the soft squeak of her silver metamorphosis companion Cupil. Vyse and Aika both looked embarrassed and wanted to comment back, but chose wisely instead to stay quiet and give a humble nod. With the farewells now out of the way, it was time for them to depart.
"Come and visit us sometime, you hear?" Vyse's mother called out as the group of four made for the door.
"No worries, Vyse's mother!" Aika replied, giving a loving wave. Vyse chuckled sheepishly while Fina walked with a bemused expression. This was to be the start of an unforgettable adventure, of that she was sure.
"Sailor's Island is on the horizon, Captain!" Vyse reported; standing composed behind the helm as his hands guided them straight towards the island in the far distance. The lighthouse's beams pierced through the darkening sky as it rotated around to act as a beacon for all directions to see. Drachma gave a huff as an initial response, which Vyse was quickly learning to be the captain's traditional acknowledgement of his crewmembers.
"Told you your loitering would cost us a day." Annoyance was evident in his tone as the older man spoke. "We should be nearing Maramba by now, not Sailor's Island."
"Aw, come on Capt… I already apologized for that. My parents can be a bit… protective." Vyse appeared embarrassed by this statement. Drachma could understand why Vyse's parents would act the way they did. Vyse was a good kid. A bit foolhardy, but he had the skills to back them up for the most part.
"Vyse, I need to ask you something." The blue jacket wearing teen perked up immediately at the serious nature that wrapped around this question.
"Yes?" What could Drachma possibly want to know that he didn't know already?
"This might sound a bit odd, but… What is the name of your mother?"
"Huh? Why?" Vyse's confusion was expressed quite well in his eyes as he peeled them away from the windows to stare at the one-armed man. It was rather out of the blue.
"Well, I just thought it was odd that your friend only called her 'your mother'… In my day, that would be considered highly disrespectful to your elders." From the look on his face, he still believed that to be the case. He was entirely right, of course. Vyse sighed.
"She's never told a soul her name. She always said to me that to tell someone what her name was would be giving them empowerment over her. I can't claim to understand what that means, but… there you go." Vyse shifted uncomfortably as he offered the only explanation he could give, which he knew to be nonsensical. Drachma considered what the boy said thoughtfully, finding it odd that this wife and mother would not share her name with her own family…
"It might be possible she doesn't know it." Drachma concluded. "Unless your mother truly believes in that explanation she gave you, but from what I saw, it seemed more like she was uncertain and insecure rather than deliberate."
"A two second glance and you got all of that?" Vyse didn't know whether to be impressed or find it slightly eerie that Drachma looked so much into a matter that he personally didn't believe to be a big deal. "Sounds like it comes from experience, captain."
"Aye, it does, but never mind that now, boy. Watch your steering. We're nearing the port, and I'll be damned if you scratch the Little Jack's exterior because of an idling conversation." That was a dismissal of the subject from what Vyse could hear, but he knew when not to pry. He would already be shaming his upbringing if he tried.
The docking of Sailor's Island was done entirely in silence. Drachma was studying Vyse's movements meticulously to watch for errors in judgment, but the old man would find himself pleasantly surprised again at the boy's natural aptitude for flying. Aika and Fina joined them on the bridge when the ship had come to a stop.
"We'll be staying tonight at the inn." Drachma announced in the silence that the youngsters provided him. "Heard that there be some new ship parts in store; going to get them installed in the morning. Be sure to stock up on items you might need. Never know when yer going to get another opportunity."
"Aye aye! Let's go!" With that, the four person crew excitedly disembarked together to head to the main cluster of buildings that made up Sailor's Island. Drachma left them rather abruptly to have a drink or three at the tavern; to talk to Polly, he said, but also to drown some feelings that had manifested during his conversation with Vyse. He promised to meet them at the inn later. This left our signature trio to wander about the town and hear snippets of interesting information… something regarding a recent theft in the area?
"It is strange, this place…" Fina murmured, looking around with a curiosity that one could only express as a newcomer to the area. "Perhaps it is just the time of day, but this place seems more… a dreary atmosphere than even the residents are comfortable with."
"I know what you mean…" Aika affirmed, placing her hands on her hips as she frowned. "This place is usually much more chipper. They must be upset over the thefts we heard about."
"Guess they take thefts and kidnappings more personally here… They like to promote a diverse and accepting community; must be jarring to their reputation when stuff like this happens. I do hope that the item store still has some supplies left in stock, though. I'm a bit wary about the number of monsters we've had problems with recently." Vyse lead them over the creaky bridge and toward the said building, though he paused when he noticed that Fina had stopped following them. Aika noticed too.
"What's wrong, Fina?" The casual boomerang wielder asked, approaching their foreign friend with concern. Cupil was crooning softly in reassurance, but for what, neither Vyse nor Aika really knew.
"Forgive me, friends. This might sound odd, but I was just getting weird vibes about the place… I'm sure it's nothing." Fina shook off the feeling, regaining confidence as she strode across the bridge to join Vyse on the other side. Aika trailed behind in bewilderment, lacking comprehension of the Silvite's sporadic behaviour. Fina had a tendency to flop around on her feelings concerning certain things; that much Aika was aware of, but they were merely entering the item store! Surely such an action did not deserve such hesitation?
As they entered the small room, however, Aika couldn't help but feel a little uneasy. The shopkeeper stared them down suspiciously, his expression one of contempt as Vyse approached the counter.
"What affiliation of sailor?" The question was sharp and direct.
"Blue Rogues." Vyse replied in kind. The older man glowered at the response.
"Rogues?" He echoed. "Tell me then, Blue Rogue, would you happen to know anything about this?" At this the shopkeeper pulled off a flag that had been draped as décor on the counter. Vyse's eyes widened as he was met with the sight of a short engraving. The Rogues were here.
"I have no idea. Blue Rogues are for helping the people, and we only all just got back from escaping Valua… it couldn't have been the work of one in our faction."
"That's what I was thinking." The man crossed his arms, scanning the engraving on his workspace again before covering it up once more. "Just wanted to be sure. What do you need, travelers?"
"Oh, that's a relief. I was worried when I heard about the robbery that you wouldn't have anything." Aika admitted, coming to stand beside Vyse at the counter. Fina was looking around the room, taking everything in.
"Aye, I wouldn't have nothing now except that a shipment came in from Nasr this morning. Business wasn't disrupted, but you can imagine that the loss of profits poses an inconvenience in acquiring future supplies."
"Some sacri and curia crystals, please." Vyse filled his order, though Aika hurriedly added,
"Magic droplets too!" If they were to run into many more random encounters, she just knew that they would be praying for the moons to give them strength multiple times. They had to make sure they would be prepared for that inevitability. The shopkeeper handed over the selected items, appearing visibly relieved as Vyse handed over the appropriate payment of gold.
"Good night to you three!" He would yell as they exited, but they would only give muffled replies as a response. It would not be too much longer that the three would find themselves lounging around in one of their two reserved rooms, waiting once again on Drachma's reappearance. When the older man finally did, he was very solemn and demure in his character.
"I've been hearing some things that I don't like." His voice was as gruff as always, though it was with a tinge of slurring from one too many drinks. "A group of pirates that attack anything that moves in these parts, pretty much."
"What, more Black Pirates? I thought we chased Baltor out of this region?" Aika pondered aloud. Drachma shook his head.
"Nay, it is not of Baltor or any of the other Black Pirates; none of them have been reported in the area recently. There's a rumour spreading around that there's a new group of pirates around… a group of girls flying a pretty indistinguishable ship."
"Indistinguishable? In what way?" This came from Vyse.
"An average ship with extraordinary firepower, or so they say. The design is so basic it just blends in with the others. Don't know what yer up against until it's too late."
"Do they have a name?" Fina spoke up, finally joining in on the speculative conversation. "Perhaps in affiliation with the 'Rogues' term?" Drachma's features lit up at the suggestion immediately, telling the three other occupants of the room that he had indeed heard something along the same lines.
"Polly told me she's heard talk about these… 'Red Rogues'. Some small quips about them have been cropping up in Nasr as of late. Most people believe that they don't exist, but… Where did you hear it from?"
"We visited the item shop. The word Rogue was engraved on the counter, likely by using a blade of some kind." Vyse filled the captain in, who rubbed his chin thoughtfully and nodded.
"Don't think the people are right to dismiss them, if these people are as bold and daring as the rumours say. That said, Vyse, when you take rein of the Little Jack tomorrow, I expect you to be on full alert. We'll be heading to the deserts of Nasr, and from where the stories are coming from… they favour that continent."
"It would be foolish to disregard this, I agree. I'll keep a watch, not to worry." Vyse replied. Aika muttered something about helping to assist him on the lookout, though it was nearly unheard because she promptly fell asleep only moments later. With Aika asleep and Fina nearing the same state, it was time to turn in for the night. Drachma headed off into the adjacent room to inhabit a room himself while Vyse opted to stay with the girls. The only one that would object to this had already fallen asleep anyhow.
"Vyse…?" Her voice was always melodic in his ears. She spoke with a quiet intelligence; had an unusual personality compared to whom he had grown up with.
"Hmm?" Vyse pulled off his jacket, exposing his black undershirt.
"These Red Rogues… do you think we'll have any problems with them?" Faint veils of nerves were laced in the question.
"I doubt it." Vyse shrugged, though at Fina's uncertain expression he gave her a warm smile. "I don't think we'll ever run into them either, but if we do, I'm sure we'll do just fine. The Little Jack's harpoon cannon is nothing to sneeze at, that's for sure."
"If you say so… have a good night, Vyse." She plopped on a well maintained bed, deciding that it was much too warm to wish to crawl underneath the covers. Aika had opted for the same, at least judging at how she was sprawled over the top as they looked at her.
"Pleasant dreams, Fina. Rest easy." It would not be long before the Silvite followed the red-head's lead into slumber, but Vyse would soon find that his mind was churning with too many thoughts to allow him to drift off. What did a moon crystal look like? What had Drachma deliberately avoided talking about earlier when they had docked the ship? Who were the Red Rogues?
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your view) for Vyse, he would get the answers to these questions all in good time.
For now, though… sleep.
END CHAPTER 1